IDENTITY THEFT GROWS

If you were worried about things before, wait till you read this. It’s about stalking and other consequences of the new information age.

Did you know that identity theft is a growth industry? It was up 22 percent last year, and still climbing the charts. We thought we already were already well-informed about all this stuff but we learned a few new tricks from a book written by a couple of cyber cops: “Cyber Crime Fighters, Tales from the Trenches;” by Donovan and Bernier. One of the authors is a detective, the other a systems manager in a police department.

Many of you already know that most cell phones come with a built-in global positioning chip. This is meant to help in emergencies. If you are ever lost of hurt, you can be located by the police and other government agencies by tracking your cell phone. At least, they can locate the phone. So can anyone else as it turns out.

This tracking business all started because many companies wanted to locate their vehicles or use global positioning to plan the most efficient routes for sales calls and deliveries. But naturally enough, it has expanded to include just about everyone. “Google Latitude” is a program that can locate you and transmit that information to your friends, complete with map and your picture. This doesn’t need GPS satellites but works by triangulating your position through cell phone towers. This will work even if you’re inside a large building. It can use GPS as well, and the two technologies combined can pinpoint your location quite accurately. If both are working, a blue dot will appear next to your location. Another program of this type is called “Blip,” from BlackLine GPS; a web search can turn up others.

You have to give permission for this kind of tracking, of course, and there is a useful purpose to it. There are many reasons for wanting to know where someone is: it could be to track a young child or sick relative, for example, or someone who has mental lapses and may wander off; it could be a friend or colleague who wants to be tracked for safety reasons.

But if someone can get hold of your cell phone for just a few minutes, that person can register the phone to be tracked and list their own phone or a smartphone (like a Blackberry) to receive the information. It could be a roommate, a co-worker, a spouse (or ex-spouse) – anyone who can get to that phone while you are somewhere else for a few minutes, perhaps in the shower or out to lunch. They need those minutes because a message will come back to the phone saying that someone has requested tracking and asks if you agree. The tracker needs to still have control of the phone to send back a message saying they do agree. After that it’s open city.

Snoop Stick Around

“SnoopStick” is an interesting gizmo. It is a USB flash drive that installs key logging software on any Windows computer it is plugged into. Key logging software records all the keystrokes made on that computer and sends you the information. It also lets you look at whatever screen the user is viewing at the moment.

You can use the $60 Snoop Stick on up to three target computers. After you plug it into those and plug it in back into your home computer, you can watch all the action on the target computers, including passwords. You can also see the screens they’re watching. You can save an instant snapshot of those screens for later evidence. If they are chatting back and forth with other users, the SnoopStick will record the conversation.

SnoopStick is marketed as a parental control device. It operates in stealth mode and the targeted computers would not normally know their actions are being tracked. As a final fillip, you, the spy, can turn off their Internet connection. And that, as the actress said to the bishop, is that.

Fraud For Sale

There are many other kinds of cyber crime. Who’s more likely to fall for fraud at an online auction site like eBay? Do you think it’s men or women?

It turns out that men waste much more money on bogus auctions than women do. But a study done in the U.K found that 45 percent of women gave up their passwords and other personal information just for an offer of a free chocolate bar. Only 10 percent of men did so.

Fake Caller ID

— Don’t rely on caller ID too heavily. It’s possible for the caller to send a fake ID.

A lot of kids think this is fun and funny. They call a friend and the incoming call is listed as coming from the FBI or their mom. You can go to SpoofCard.com and buy a card that lets you make calls that not only lists the incoming call as coming from anyone and anywhere you want, it also lets you disguise your voice. Do you think that call is coming from someone at your bank? Don’t bet money on it. So far, this works in the U.S. only; worldwide action is no doubt coming up soon.

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